Wednesday, January 14, 2015

NC Justice System Itself Is Endangered

Sen. Dan Soucek
A significant piece by Doug Clark in the News & Record discusses the meddling by the NC General Assembly into our justice system, along with their meddling in issues of local control. Watauga and the Town of Boone have ample experience with both forms of meddling.

The General Assembly puts its top-down paw on cities and towns, and cities and towns must fight back with law suits over the taking of water systems, airports, and extraterritorial jurisdictions (the ETJ in Boone). But the General Assembly also attempted to pre-arrange the judicial system to guarantee that the courts wouldn't overturn their heavy-handed meddling: "Three-judge panels are now required at the trial court level when laws are subject to constitutional challenge."

Doug Clark asks, "Why use three judges when formerly one handled such cases? The legislature may assume the chief justice will appoint favorable panels, but I doubt straight-arrow [Chief Justice] Mark Martin is going to play political games."

A three-judge panel was appointed to hear Boone's suit against Dan Soucek's "local bill" to deprive Boone of its ETJ. Don't actually know who appointed those judges, but we do know that the ulterior motive in moving to three-judge panels did not exactly work out for the General Assembly in the case of Boone's ETJ. All three judges agreed that there is plentiful evidence to predict that Boone will prevail at trial, so they imposed an injunction stopping Soucek's power grab.

The top of the judicial hierarchy in NC raises its own type of power-grabbing, with a transparently partisan Supreme Court judge like Paul Newby winning election to the court in 2012 via tons of conservative pressure group money.

The bottom-line is that justice itself, and the ability of the victims of the General Assembly's overreach, are endangered in North Carolina.

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